Is the Book of Revelation Canonical in the Orthodox Church?

To ask in the present day whether or not any book of the New Testament is truly canonical in the Orthodox Church may seem odd.  While the history of the canonization process of the Old and New Testaments took place over several centuries and is neither neat nor tidy, it is an issue, particularly in the case of the New Testament, which has been settled for more than a millennium at this point.  It is taken for granted that the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and Protestants all share the same list of 27 canonical New Testament books.  Delving into the history of the book of Revelation in particular, however, and the arguments for and against its canonicity, reveals…

Christ in the Apocalypse

The book of Revelation takes its name from the first verse, identifying the text as ‘the Revelation (Apokalypsis) of Jesus Christ’.  This is important to understanding the text.  It is not the revelation of ‘end time’ events in the distant future.  It is not the revelation of esoteric spiritual secrets about the cosmos.  It is a revelation of who Jesus Christ truly is.  The Revelation received by St. John is a communication from Christ to seven churches in Asia Minor, who are facing persecution, schism, compromise, and heresy.  In answer to all of these difficulties faced by his people, Revelation proclaims the divine identity of Christ, who he is, what he has done, and what he shortly will do when…

Christ in the General Epistles

The ‘general’ or ‘catholic’ epistles are a group of texts within the New Testament consisting of the epistles of James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2, and 3 John, and Jude.  These are a group of texts which are too often neglected for several reasons.  They are relatively short texts, which means though they are part of the Orthodox lectionary, they tend to be moved through very quickly, and mostly on weekdays in the regular lectionary cycle.  While the Pauline epistles share a common background and theological purpose, the general epistles are extremely eclectic.  James, for example, has little in common with the others.  Based on biographical information in the Acts of the Apostles and his own biographical comments in…

St. Paul the Mystic

As a bridge between the discussion of Christ in St. Paul’s epistles and Christ in the General Epistles, it is important to discuss a second factor in St. Paul’s understanding of Christ as God.  This concerns the oft-neglected area of St. Paul’s own personal practices of prayer and piety, and how this relates to both his vision of the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, in his call to be an apostle, and to his own direct knowledge of Christ as God.  While the previous post discussed St. Paul’s identification of the second hypostasis of Israel’s God as the person of Jesus Christ based on Second Temple Jewish tradition, this one will focus on the epistemological issue of how…

Christ in St. Paul’s Epistles

The Christology presented in the letters of St. Paul is particularly important to an understanding of the viewpoint of the New Testament as a whole, in that St. Paul’s epistles are the earliest documents, the first written, that discuss who Christ is.  Though obviously these letters were written after the events described in the gospels and, in most cases, the events described in the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul’s written exhortations to the nascent Christian communities which he had established precede the setting down of the gospel accounts in writing.  If there was indeed some sort of ‘development’ of the understanding or the idea of Christ, from a ‘lower’ to a ‘higher’ Christology, one would expect to find in…

Christ in the Gospels

Several weeks ago, a series of articles discussed how Christ can be seen, and was understood within Second Temple Judaism in the Old Testament.  A companion series discussing how Christ is seen in the New Testament may seem counter-intuitive due to its apparently obvious nature.  This is particularly true of Christ in the gospels, which are quite obviously entirely about our Lord Jesus Christ.  However, the core of that previous series was developing the way in which Second Temple Judaism had come, through careful attention to the text of the Hebrew Bible, to see God as a godhead of two or more persons even before the incarnation of Christ.  This then provided those to whom Christ came with the means…

Shepherds of Israel

There is a common misunderstanding of the origins of clerical orders within the Church.  It is argued that the Christians of the apostolic era, including the apostles themselves, believed that Christ would certainly return within their own lifetime.  It is only when that clearly did not occur, when the apostles, or at least most of them, had died, that the concept of the church came into being, as well as varied understandings, which evolved over time, as to how the newly constituted church ought be governed.  It is thought that these structures were deeply influenced by the prevailing culture at the time, most especially Roman culture, as the church, by this time, was primarily Gentile.  This narrative has been put…

Being and Doing: On Rebellion

The relationship between the truths of the Christian faith, and the Christian way of life, has fallen into great disrepair in modern times.  At its core, the Protestant Reformation was focused on this relationship.  In the contemporary world, our idea of faith itself has become anemic.  One is a Christian if they believe that certain propositions are true.  This reduces the last judgment to a true/false test, in which correct answers gain one eternal life.  This misunderstanding then generates a whole series of debates regarding exactly which propositions, and how many, are absolutely required for salvation, or to be a Christian, and which ones and how many can be held in disagreement.  In those areas where it has been decided…

Man as the Image of God in Reverse

That human persons are created in the image of God is explicit from the first pages of the scriptures (Gen 1:27).  As a concept, removed from its particular purpose in the Genesis narrative, this fact has become the subject of a seemingly endless series of speculations as to exactly what this means.  In contemporary theology, this most often takes the form of seeking to identify ‘the image of God’ in man with some characteristic or characteristics of human person.  So it is proposed that rationality, or language, or freedom, for example, are the substantial meaning of God’s image.  All of these speculations, and this approach as a whole, have severe difficulties.  On one hand, as we advance in our knowledge…

The Spirit of God in the Old Testament

This week serves as a sort of epilogue to the recent series on Christ in the Old Testament.  These previous posts discussed the reality that Second Temple Judaism, through a close reading of the Hebrew scriptures, had developed the idea that there is a second hypostasis of Yahweh, the God of Israel.  The terminology for this within the Jewish world was to speak of the ‘Two Powers in Heaven’.  The identity and origin of this second hypostasis was the subject of much debate and conjecture in Jewish literature.  The New Testament authors clearly identify the second person of the Godhead as Jesus Christ, incarnate in their day.  In response to this core argument of the Christian proclamation, the Jewish community…